There is great power in being brought to your knees by life. To the depths of despair. In becoming so lost in the abyss that you find yourself wading through the darkness trying to find the light. 'The dark night of the soul' is how this is described by 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross. 'A phase of passive purification of the spirit in the mystical development'.
This is what happened to me. Without knowing it, gods plan to elevate me to a greater level of consciousness. '
The search for truth or my truth, began nine years ago...…
Along the spiritual path, there were questions and BIG QUESTIONS. There was doubt, deep sadness and loneliness. A rocky road to say the least. Just when I thought I had found the answers, the rug would again be pulled from underneath me, plunging me back into the abyss.
Last Ramadan, something changed drastically. Things began to make sense in a way they had not previously. The more I became submerged into my spiritual life, the more sensitive I became to external noise. I no longer felt the urge to be visible. My ego very slowly stopped desiring the need for recognition, external validation or to be seen as ‘somebody’. At times, the prospect of being a nobody felt preferable. My 'mask' was dissipating, bringing my 'shadow' to the light'*.
No easy feat in a society which values worldly success over spiritual expansion, visibility over anonymity. The process of surrender was painful on epic levels and the work is still nowhere near done. In fact, this need to be seen as 'someone' rears it's ugly head now and again. I'm human after all!
Last Ramadan however, gave me the permission to disappear. Ramadan said, ‘I hear you, I understand'. It allowed me to honour the path I was on.
I fasted for the very first time at the age of six. Prayer came later but I completed reading the Quran (in Arabic) at six and a half years old, shocking the community around me. As a child, this was exciting but as I got older, it became a sense of duty. Coming from a cognitive place of ‘I should’ rather than ‘I know’. Until of course, the breakdown or…’ breakthrough’.
It is not that I had 'not' known piety throughout my life, I had just not paid attention. To that retiree who quietly devotes his time to charitable community causes. The rapper with his tens and thousands of fans who disappears to support refugees on the borders of France without a word to anyone. The talented photographer who elevates those he photographs but himself peacefully remains on the periphery. Instead, I favoured those, like myself, in the pursuit of ‘worldly’ greatness.
Ramadan taught me that ‘fulfilling your life and soul's potential’ can be sought from a humble life. It can be sought from the simple act of being grateful.
Submitting before God in prayer (Namaz) is an act which brings you closer to your humanity than any other. This is a gift. Abstaining from food and water (Roza) for sixteen hours a day alongside Muslims all over the world is a miracle. Donating money (Zakat) to those in need does not take away from you but gives a greater sense of peace.
On a worldly level, Ramadan has allowed me to accept and fully own the things which give me joy and meaning. Those things are cooking a delicious meal for the ones I love. Creating opportunities for others to shine. Buying gifts from the heart. Seeking beautiful conversations regardless of where people come from or their way of life. From smiling at a stranger whilst looking them in the eye. From a stranger smiling at me. From being absorbed in a book, music or doing work that I love. From being supported by those around me.
This is what I have learned is the true meaning of Ramadan
If you'd like to hear more about my journey, please go to about me
*The shadow and mask principles are from the work of Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung